Thursday, September 7, 2023

Tweaking Existing Laws

At the meeting of the Common Council Legal Committee on Wednesday, two laws that are currently part of the city code were discussed: the law banning formula businesses, enacted in 2017, and the vacancy law, enacted in 2018. 

In June, amendments proposed to the law banning formula businesses (Chapter 325, Article XIV, of the city code) were on the Common Council agenda but were sent back to the Legal Committee for further consideration. Since then, Councilmember Margaret Morris (First Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, has sought the input of the Hudson business community in revising the law. At Wednesday's meeting, Alex Petraglia, president of the Hudson Business Coalition, reported that HBCi had formed an ad hoc committee to make recommendations for revisions to the law to prohibit businesses that are in violation of the law from opening. Those recommendations are expected to be presented to the Legal Committee at its October meeting.

In the meantime, Chic, which has stores in eleven other locations (the law prohibits businesses with four other locations), opened a shop at 314 Warren Street and complied with the existing code by revising its business plan and not calling the shop Chic.

The vacancy law, Chapter 91 of the city code, was also discussed at Wednesday's meeting. Hudson has had a vacancy law for more than five years now. The law was meant to discourage allowing buildings to stand empty, become derelict, and ultimately be demolished. Five years after the law was enacted, it's not clear if it has been effective in achieving the goals of preventing demolition and keeping dwelling units available.

In November 2022, BFJ Planning, hired to consult on policy issues with the Housing Trust Fund, provided a 75-page memo on revising the city's vacancy law. It was not this memo but rather an email from Michelle Tullo, Hudson's Housing Justice Director, forwarded to the Legal Committee by Council president Tom DePietro, that prompted the discussion of the vacancy law at the Legal Committee meeting. Tullo's email suggested the following "tweaks" to the vacancy law:
  1. Clarifying the definition to reflect the purpose of the law 
  2. Add a time frame to the definition of vacancy
  3. Add a time frame to how long a building can be vacant with a building permit and have no action happen before it reverts to being vacant again
  4. Methodology for determining vacancy
  5. Clarify the registration process and make the form fillable online
  6. Specify who is overlooking the vacancy list
  7. Add an appeal process
  8. Add obligations of the owner and insurance of the vacant property
  9. Increase the vacancy fees
  10. Expand the exemption list for fees
  11. Add a complaint process for residents to submit and a review process
  12. Audit and report on this annually
  13. Consider eminent domain process for unreachable owners/dangerous sites
One building that was mentioned specifically in the discussion of toughening the vacancy law was this house in the 500 block of Union Street.

The house, a two-family dwelling, was purchased by its current owner in 2004 for $162,000. According to reports from neighbors, no one has lived in the house since that time. In 2019, Gossips learned that some people in the neighborhood were calling for its demolition, calling it a zombie house and claiming it was a haven for feral animals and a fire hazard. The house has a number of code violations, and the City has taken legal action against the owner (whose name and address are readily available in the tax rolls) but to no avail. The City cannot seize the property because the taxes on the house, now assessed at $244,000, continue to be paid.

It will be interesting to see what the Legal Committee does with both these laws.


  1. Small boutique multi store operations are kindred in spirit to the real founders who created Hudson - industrious working people that based their lives on the entrepreneurial spirit of private enterprise. That is how Hudson came to exist in the first place.

    The "gorilla in the room" in Hudson is the Galvan ownership of 100 buildings that may or may not be turned into non tax paying entities purely for the enrichment of the Galvan organization. some of it is good, some of it is not good, but who is really running the town ?

    The law banning Airbnbs was a huge mistake for the businesses in Hudson that do pay taxes in their individual buildings and do generate sales taxes for Hudson and the County, bringing people to Hudson. Now the streets on a weekend night are almost as empty as on a week day.

    The Hudson political structure is anti-business owned by small individual operators and pro big government sponsored subsidized projects and non tax paying "foundations" that are really dodges for the ultra wealthy. No small operators of Airbnbs are allowed.

    Sadly, that saps the life out of the city and will result in a far different city than the enlightened founders envisioned.

  2. A few years ago, I heard that there was an arrest warrant out for the owner of that house on Union because they had not responded to Code Enforcement's demands to repair the many code violations. I believe the owner lives in Florida, or used to. The city has been far too casual about that house, much like the overgrown tree nearby that recently came down (not thanks to the city). You want real trouble? Continue to ignore the DANGEROUS AND UNSAFE house (according to Craig Haigh at Code) and do nothing.
    Also, Code has a Vacant Building Registration, but it is completely useless and ineffective. This, too, should have been remedied long ago. We lose out on hundreds of dollars a day, maybe thousands, because the law is not enforced. And houses remain eyesores and a danger. It's more than enough to make anyone say "What on earth is going on in Hudson City Hall?"

  3. I think it’s depressing and appalling that the City of Hudson would allow such an historic property on the 500 block of Union Street to be abandoned and deteriorate year after year. And if someone is paying the taxes, who is paying them and for what purpose? I wonder if the owner is alive or is aware of what is going on? Something is enormously strange and perplexing here. Many other cities or small towns would not put up with this.

  4. Thank you for bringing light to the vacant properties issue! I have been emailing, calling, and visiting City Hall for years regarding the very house you show! Now, let's see what our local government will finally do about it.